Thank you, Justice Stevens

While Joe Biden was taking the oath of office this morning, I was struck by how healthy Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens looked and sounded. The man is 88 years old, and not only does he look 15 years younger, he is still able to do an intellectually demanding job well.

Even though luck has a lot to do with longevity (Mr. desmoinesdem tells me that Justice Stevens has an older brother who still practices law in Florida), I still feel grateful for whatever Stevens has done throughout his life to stay in such fine health.

Imagine the harm that could have been done if George Bush had been able to name another justice of the Scalia, Thomas, Roberts or Alito variety.

President Gerald Ford nominated Stevens for the Supreme Court in 1975. That has to be one of the best things Ford ever did for this country.

Apparently Stevens has no immediate plans to step down and has hired clerks for the Supreme Court’s 2009 session. I learned from his wikipedia entry that if Stevens continues to serve through February 2011, he will become the oldest justice in the history of the Supreme Court (Oliver Wendell Holmes currently holds the record). If Stevens serves until July 15, 2012, he would become the justice to have served on the high court for the longest time (surpassing William O. Douglas).

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